Millennium Post

Of flying sardars and femme fatales

Half-way into The Sad Demise of Manpreet Singh, the book’s unlikely hero Dominic ‘Biscuit’ McLeod, a visa fraud officer in the Australian high commission in Delhi, tells a fellow firang Cindy, who’s fresh off the boat, how to shit in Indian trains.

‘Now, you have to have your feet a shoulder-width apart, right? Then you squat down, you must get the position of your trousers correct, otherwise they get soiled, or your wallet and keys might end up down the dunny.
This is a crucial point, OK? Crucial. Remember it, because the first time I tried it, no one had told me about the position of the pants, and when I went to unload from the back passage the sprinkler started from the front and I had to put my hand there, like a kind of mud-guard, to stop the piss from getting all over my trousers and feet. It was only afterwards that I discovered that your pants should be around your knees, and then, if you’re a bloke, you must point the old Niagara Falls straight into the bowl, to avoid getting wet.’

It is passages like this that gives you a break from the frustration you share with Biscuit as trails go cold in the investigation into the mysterious death of visa officer Manpreet Singh. But Biscuit McLeod is not one to give up on a chance to play detective, fond as he is of spinning conspiracy theories while guzzling beer and mouthing choicest Hindi expletives. It is a break from the monotony of his life in Delhi as a low-brow visa fraud officer in the high commission, perched higher than Indians but below his fellow Australians. It is a chance for him to put to good use his deep insight into the workings of Indian society gained from being sedated and robbed as a tourist by his local guide and landing up butt naked in front of the high commission office asking for help and landing a job as visa fraud officer!

But nothing prepares our man for the rot that runs deep in the visa fraud division of his own embassy and takes him from the high-life of Chanakyapuri to the creepy bylanes of Ludhiana, from the cricket field of Delhi to the killing fields of rural Punjab, and from the wiles of wonderful women to the arms of accommodating Afgan whores. Everyone is playing a game here to help Sardars fly off to foreign lands with fake visas and as the proverbial shit hits the ceiling, Biscuit somehow manages to keep his tees on and his wits about him as he unravels a racket that goes to the very top. Read this laughter riot of a book and marvel at how accurately this videshi writer has captured our corrupted desi soul.   
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